Russia Recruits North Koreans to Rebuild Occupied Donbas

North Korean workers will aid Russia in reconstructing occupied Donbas in eastern Ukraine, which has been severely damaged during the Russia-Ukraine war, the Russian ambassador to Pyongyang said Monday.

“There are prospects for cooperation between the DPRK and the Donbass republics, and they are quite extensive. Firstly, Korean builders who are highly qualified, hardworking and ready to work in the most difficult conditions, will be a very serious” part in building the destroyed infrastructure in Donbas, Alexander Matsegora, the Russian ambassador to North Korea, said in an interview.

Matsegora discussed the closer partnership the two countries have experienced since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including North Korea’s recognition of the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk territories. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) proclaimed independence after an unofficial referendum in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea and Russian-backed troops supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Russia recognized their independence on February 21, 2022, days before launching another invasion.

North Korea recognized the territories on July 13, joining Russia and Syria as the only countries to do so. In response, Ukraine terminated its diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Pyongyang was also one of only five countries to vote against a U.N. resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The ambassador claimed North Korea receives nothing for cooperating with Russia on the world stage, and said it just acted according to its “conscience.”

“North Korea is one of the very few countries that can afford to pursue a completely independent foreign policy. No one – neither Russia with China, let alone the United States – can force North Koreans to do something or not to do something,” Matsegora said, adding that Russia intends to fight against the global sanctions on North Korea.

Matsegora also apparently hinted at an even closer alliance with North Korea in the future, given the sanctions on both countries from the West.

“In the new reality in which we exist, in which the DPRK exists, in which the republics of Donbass will exist, we need to get used to living in conditions of all kinds of restrictions,” he said.

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